"You don't play pinball
just with your hands, you play it with your groin too. The pinball
problem is not to stop the ball before it's swallowed by the mouth at the bottom,
or to kick it back to midfield like a halfback. The problem is to make it stay up where
the lighted targets are more numerous and have it bounce from one to another, wandering,
confused, delirious, but still a free agent. And you achieve this not by jolting the
ball but by transmitting vibrations to the case, the frame, but gently, so the machine
won't catch on and say Tilt. You can do it only with the groin, or with a play of the
hips that makes the groin not so much bump, as slither, keeping you on this side
of an orgasm."
- Umberto Eco,
Foucault's Pendulum, 1989
(or, project statement)
Q: What is the purpose of this project?
Many people (male and female) are uncomfortable with, afraid of, or confused by the subject of female anatomy.
It seems as though our culture has alienated us from our own bodies, and that (due to its lack of visible empirical signals)
the female sexual response system is seen as a mysterious freakish entity that many are unwilling to understand.
This project creates a metaphorical example of how one might visualize the “invisible,” non-empirical female sexual
response system in a way that is familiar and affirming; the pinball metaphor implies that skill is involved, and that players
will learn and develop skill with practice.
Another goal of this project is to produce an interesting sociology experiment - How do people behave when they
are faced with cultural taboos? The machine “plays” the player as much as the player “plays” it, creating a performance
of unique gestures and attitude from each different person who plays.
Q: Where can I go to play?
The future of orgasmic pinball is uncertain - best guess would be the Burning Man Festival
of Black Rock City, Nevada (the site of its first solo installation, for "The Body" theme of 2000, and for "Beyond Belief" theme of 2003) or a Burning Man community event. Burning
Man Festival has proved to be an excellent venue for Orgasmic Pinball, with its surreal environment and audience of creative, fun-loving participants.
The Burning Man crowd also provides an answer to another frequently-asked
question: although they comprised only 35% of Black Rock City's
population in 2000, Women were the undisputed champions of Orgasmic Pinball, in both enthusiasm and endurance.
Q: Why did you choose a pinball machine over any other ordinary object?
The pinball machine is a beautiful anomaly in arcade culture. The pinball
machine itself is, in structure and function, a non-violent, ungendered,
non-competitive game. There is no killing, no destruction, no opponent or enemy.
It¹s about motion, physics, light, sound, stimulus and response.
the sexual life of adult women is a dark continent of psychology."
The Question of Lay Analysis, 1926
"I do not believe
that the human species merits Freud's pessimism..."
- Maria-Antoinetta Macciocchi,
Feminine Sexuality in Fascist Ideology, 1976
Success at pinball is based on the player's ability to stimulate the machine.
By eliminating the scoring system completely, the Visible Woman gives no pleasure
to the player other than the type of pleasure that is gained by stimulating
another being and thereby eliciting an excited response.
The pinball is an active, unpredictable object - it senses the location of the
ball, and responds by giving it a little push. Sometimes, it holds on to the ball
for a second before releasing it, only to send it flying back onto the field
to bang it around some more. When it gets really, really excited, a "multiball"
occurs, causing highly-concentrated excitement within the machine. The active
nature of the pinball is especially important to this project, as it disputes
the archaic (but still widely-held) belief that women have "passive" genitalia.
Q: How does it correspond with female anatomy?
In the past, various theories have defined the
vagina as the lack, absence, or antithesis of the penis or phallus, while the
clitoris has been defined as a miniature, (inadequate, unnecessary, immature, and generally
Rather than defining the vagina as a strange, mysterious, (invisible) hole, the metaphor of
the pinball machine allows the female sex organs to be viewed as a positive,
tangible, dynamic object.
"According to these theorists,
women's erogenous zones are no more than a clitoris-sex, which cannot
stand up in comparison with the valued phallic organ; or a hole-envelope, a sheath
which surrounds and rubs the penis during coition; a non-sex organ or a masculine
sex organ turned inside out in order to caress itself."
- Luce Iriagay,
The Sex which is Not One, 1977
A pinball machine is, in no sense, the lack of any object, but rather, like
the vagina and its surrounding muscle system, it is a complex cavity with exciting
internal and external features;
a complex system of buttons and switches can be
found on the inside and outside of the pinball machine.
These buttons and switches represent the body's own pleasure interface;
the external erogenous zones are represented by the touchable buttons on the
outside of the pinball machine, while the body's internal erogenous mechanisms
("g-spots," as well as hormonal activity, muscle activity, etc.) are represented
in the internal switches (triggered when the ball bounces off of them, etc.).
Like any of the body¹s "hot spots," these buttons and switches can be stimulated
in order to evoke an excited response in the machine, and to keep the pinball bouncing
around excitedly until the user fails to stimulate the machine properly.
Q: Are you saying that women are "objects"?
Of course not. This is a metaphor about
a specific anatomical phenomenon, not any one woman nor women in general.
The Visible Woman: Orgasmic Pinball disclaims all responsibility for the behaviors of any
woman or women in general.
Q: What was it before it was "Orgasmic Pinball"?
It was an action-adventure theme, based on an early 1990's movie which will remain nameless.
(OK, for a hint, check out the manual in the